Intelligence Community Focused on War Avoidance on Iran

by Carl Osgood

War avoidance with respect to Iran continues to be the order of the day for the institution of the U.S. military, which views such a war as a disaster that can be avoided by diplomatic and other means. This was indicated by the testimony Thursday by Director of National Intelligence to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper repeated his earlier testimony that the intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear program is that Iran is holding out the option of being able to build nuclear weapons, but has not yet decided to do so. "And we believe that the decision would be made by the Supreme Leader himself, and he would base that on a cost-benefit analysis in terms of I don't think he'd want a nuclear weapon at any price," he said.

Clapper also expressed a certain disagreement with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who told the same committee that if Iran decided to build a bomb, "It would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb, and then possibly another one or two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon." Clapper said that with respect to the year, that's technically feasible, but not very likely. "There are all kinds of combinations and permutations that could affect how long it might take the Iranians to make a decision to pursue a nuclear weapon."

Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, stated what should be obvious but is usually ignored by the pro-war crowd. Iran is likely to respond if attack, but "the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict."

Panetta, on the other hand, continues to prefer to speak through Washington Post columnist David Ignatius about his concerns regarding an Israeli strike on Iran. Ignatius first reported on Feb. 2 that Panetta was concerned that the Israelis would be launching military strikes on Iran in the March, April, may time period, and that column has been making waves ever since.

Friday morning, during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Ignatius defended that report. "Leon Panetta is someone who clearly thinks it would be a mistake from Israel's standpoint and from the stand point of the security of the U.S. for this to go forward and he's said that very directly to the Israelis," he said. Panetta, during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 14, was forced to admit that he did, indeed, have a conversation with Ignatius, but he refused to further characterize it; and when he was asked directly whether or not Israel was planning to attack Iran, said, "I don't believe they've made that decision, yet." He otherwise just repeats the Administration line that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

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